I have a deck of journal prompts my wife bought me. The card I drew today asked, “Think of a situation that’s currently got you stumped. How would one of your heroes resolve it?” And I thought, I’m not stumped by anything right now. It’s not that I know how to resolve every problem in my life; I don’t. But I believe that all my problems are solvable even if I can’t see the solution right now.
This outlook grows out of my career as a Scrum Master and an agile coach. The purpose of Scrum is to solve complex problems. The solution to a complex problem is unknowable in advance. You have to experiment your way to success, and success is not guaranteed, easy, or obvious. You fail a lot. You learn from the failures.
I’ve been using Scrum for my own life goals for over a year now. Every week is a Sprint, and every Sprint is an experiment. I experiment with writing techniques. I experiment with improving my health, both physical and mental. I experiment with different ways to improve my performance at work. I’ve come to believe that there are few personal problems that can’t be solved, if you refuse to stop looking for a solution.
Last year, I set a goal of getting to a certain level of fluency with Spanish by my birthday this year. My first step was to complete all the lessons available from Duolingo. I set aside time each day to not merely go through new lessons, but to practice with existing vocabulary, review notes, and even to read and write outside the boundaries of the app. I was doing really well, and I had only a dozen or so units left to complete.
And then Duolingo introduced more lessons. A lot more lessons. I wasn’t going to finish by my birthday. It would take me at least through middle of summer, probably longer. It sapped my motivation completely.
You see, the thing was that I didn’t enjoy the Duolingo lessons. They were a chore, and as long as I felt like the end was in sight, I could keep going. Suddenly, the end felt farther away than ever before. And what if I got near the end again, and they added even more lessons?
At the same time, I was preparing to become a Professional Scrum Trainer with Scrum.org. That was more interesting and more rewarding, and when I had time for only one thing, studying for the exams won. My progress stalled, then halted.
I started the lessons again last week, but I liked doing them even less than I had before. I still want to gain fluency in Spanish some day, but for now, learning Spanish has to wait.